With the impending visit of United States President Barack Obama to India, an influential think tank here has called for “a bold leap forward” in the India-U.S. relationship, arguing that the U.S. establish a vision for what it sought in the relationship and give concrete meaning to the phrase “strategic partnership.”
The report by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), entitled “Natural Allies: A Blueprint for the Future of U.S.-India Relations,” argued that a growing closeness between India and the U.S. was important because although neither sought the containment of China, “the likelihood of a peaceful Chinese rise increases if it ascends in a region, where the great democratic powers are also strong.”
Reflecting a “non-partisan” effort were the report's principal authors, the former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and the former Under Secretary of State, Nicholas Burns. Both were guided by CNAS Senior Fellow Richard Fontaine.
In particular, the report focused attention on counter-terrorism and defence cooperation, calling for enhanced cooperation in both the areas. With regard to defence cooperation at the military-to-military level, the report acknowledged the shortcomings in progress to date owing to bureaucratic inertia in both sides.
U.S. export control system
According to the authors, Indian leaders believed that the U.S. export control system hindered India's acquisition of U.S. high-tech defence products and thus the U.S. ought to “modify its export-control measures… permitting increased exports of defence-related technology and goods to India.”
The authors went further into specific detail on this count, emphasising that the U.S. ought to remove the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) subsidiaries from the Entity List, “as the Indian government draws clearer lines between its civil space and civil nuclear activities on the one hand and its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons activities on the other.”
Touching upon one of the issues that India has repeatedly stressed at international forums, the report urged the U.S. to support India's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. It argued, “The U.S. should commit, publicly and explicitly, to work with India in support of its permanent membership in an enlarged UNSC.”
However, the report acknowledged that an India-U.S. partnership in the UNSC may take time to develop, and “India and U.S. votes in the U.N. General Assembly last year matched just 30 per cent of the time.”
The CNAS volume also did not shy away from highlighting a few other dimensions of the India-U.S. relationship that were not yet settled, including the two countries' divergent views on how to approach the Iran question, and also the impasse that was reached on the bilateral civil nuclear agreement after the passage of the Nuclear Liability Bill by Parliament.